Mutual Respect: Setting Boundaries and Guidelines for Co-Parenting After Divorce
Divorce is not easy for anyone and can be especially difficult for children in the family. No matter how acrimonious your divorce is or was, your children need to be co-parented by a team. You two must work out a way to communicate civilly and cooperate in order to parent and make decisions jointly for your children.
This article will set forth three essential strategies that will help you achieve successful co-parenting and comes from the office of busy Philadelphia divorce lawyer Lee A. Schwartz.
Strategy #1: Respect the Custody Arrangement that was Ordered
The first order of business is to stick to the child custody or visitation arrangement that was ordered by the court. There are a couple of reasons why this is of paramount importance.
First, establishing a stable schedule for the children will provide them with the predictability and reliability they need to help them deal with the trauma of divorce. A repetitive weekly or monthly custody schedule will help re-establish a sense of order and calm for them.
Second, sticking to the schedule shows mutual respect between co-parents and ensures that no one takes advantage of the other. Sure, co-parents can be flexible if something comes up in the moment and someone is late or cannot fulfill their obligation under the existing arrangement - that sort of accommodation is ideal. However, when one or both parties persist in changing the existing arrangement, it might be time to visit the court and get whatever adjustments are needed in a formal court order.
Why? Why shouldn’t co-parents modify child custody on their own if they both agree? Why bother with getting a modified child custody order from the court?
If you don’t formally modify the child custody order, you are asking for trouble. One of you has license to take advantage of the other at any time by making more informal changes, often on the fly. You both need some stability and predictability in your schedules too. But more importantly, if your ex changes their mind about the mutually agreed upon adjustment to the schedule, they can go to court and accuse YOU of violating the existing custody order. Not fair, but it happens.
Stick to the ordered schedule. It is best for you as co-parents as well as for your children. If changes are necessary, seek a court order to modify child custody.
Strategy #2: Communicate Regularly
This may sound difficult, especially if your divorce was particularly acrimonious, but you must put aside whatever residual anger or resentment you feel for the sake of your children. You and your co-parent may no longer be married, but you will always be a family because you have children.
You need not even like your ex to communicate with them regularly about the needs of your children. Just commit to talking civilly about them and ONLY them, and restrain yourself from the urge to rehash marital disputes. The marriage is over - your obligation to co-parent is not. If speaking with your ex in person is too difficult for you, agree to communicate through weekly or daily emails or texts - again, about your children and your children only.
Strategy #3: Speak With and Of Your Co-parent Civilly
This is the last but just as important strategy to ensure you are co-parenting responsibly.
Each of you has an equal obligation and right to parent your children. Your children have the right, equally, to a relationship with each of you.
Resolving to speak to one another in nothing less than a civil tone shows your children that their welfare is more important than any dispute between you and models mature, respectful behavior following aaa relationship’s end.
Similarly, you each must resolve to speak of each other in nothing less than positive terms in front of and to your children. If you need to vent, visit with a friend or talk with a therapist. Your children do not deserve to be burdened with your ill feelings toward their other parent, and if you choose to indulge your ill-will and take it too far, you may endanger your children’s relationship with their other parent. That is not fair to them or your ex.
Commit to employing these three strategies for co-parenting after divorce, and you will find that after some time has passed, your new family dynamic will settle into a healthy and stable routine for all involved.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant working and living in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with and writes on behalf of Lee A. Schwartz, a busy Philadelphia divorce lawyer.